Ah, the future of social media as local social? Meet Nextdoor

Even though I’m a reprehensible snob about it, Facebook is a good way to keep track of what’s going on in the lives of your far-flung friends. Twitter is less so for that (unless all your friends happen to be active on there), but good for information in real-time. The problem is, both are basically streams of information — on Twitter it’s pretty easy to miss things unless you’re very adept (or at least moderately adept) with the search feature, and on Facebook, well, the algorithm for your NewsFeed — unless you curate your own shite very well, which few do — is mostly based on likes and shares from others you know, so that stuff gets driven up, while someone’s pregnancy or local event or lawn issues might get driven down (hopefully the pregnancy would have a lot of likes, but you never know).

Let’s say you want to use social media to figure out what’s going on in your neighborhood — issues and trends and events and the like. You could go onto Facebook and friend your neighbors and local businesses/community orgs, but — if those orgs are doing text posts, you ain’t gonna see ‘em. You could follow your neighbors on Twitter (and local orgs) but again, you might miss a bunch of posts — and you might see them bitching about your noise level. You can find local businesses on Google+, and that’s actually not a bad strategy, but it’s possible some local businesses haven’t embraced it yet, despite its relevance to organic search. (Hell, it’s possible that local companies think ‘someone in marketing’ is handling it.) Yelp is a good tool, but that’s mostly for new restaurants and bars and what people are thinking about it — if you’re thinking more civically, you really don’t have a ton of options among the traditional powers of social right now.

Ah, here comes Nextdoor. It’s funded by a variety of investors, including Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Google. If you want to understand how it works, consider this example (semi-lengthy) from central Florida:

From an actual post on Audubon Park’s Nextdoor site earlier this month:

“To whomever called code enforcement about the state of my yard … Did it ever occur to you that not everyone whose yard is not up to snuff is lazy? For your information, I am a cancer patient. All of my money has gone to doctors, hospital bills, medicine, etc. My stamina isn’t even close to what it used to be … And if that wasn’t enough, my husband decided he didn’t want to be married to a lemon, so he asked for a divorce. Do you know what that feels like? … I have been killing myself the past two weeks trying to get everything done the city wants before they put a lien on my house/fine me. If the only thing that you find bothersome is the state of someone else’s yard then I think you ought to be thankful. Be thankful you can afford to pay somebody to do your yard work for you. Be thankful you have good health to do it yourself. I hope whoever this coward is gets a major comeuppance, you selfish SOB.”

Samantha Lair says she was really angry when she wrote that. She prepared herself for what she expected would be equally indignant responses.

After all, she knew her yard was a mess and she knew she needed to find the energy to clean it up.

So she was shocked to wake up the next morning and find 16 responses to her rant, many of them offers of free yard work.

“It was just amazing,” she said. “Not one of them was negative.”

For the last two weeks, neighbors from all over Audubon Park, the Orlando neighborhood sandwiched between Leu Gardens and Baldwin Park, have stopped by Lair’s home and spent an hour or two trimming or weeding. Others have hauled off bags of yard waste so she wouldn’t be charged for going over the bag limit on trash day.

That’s kind of an awesome story.

Utah is one of the best places to live in America, apparently. So naturally they’re on board with this NextDoor idea:

Wayman, a neighborhood lead for the area around Pioneer Elementary School at 3860 S. 3380 West, said Nextdoor can work in conjunction with Neighborhood Watch to fight crime.

Last week, a neighbor sent out an alert that her car had been stolen and asked everyone to keep an eye out for it. And Wayman is preparing postings on the possibility of installing video surveillance in the neighborhood to reduce crime.

The network’s reach makes it a helpful tool, he said.

“Nextdoor is good because we can communicate not only with our immediate neighbors but with people in surrounding neighborhoods,” Wayman said. “It’s a good program.”

Think about this, contextually. There are people who are 22-23 right now and have basically grown up with social media. Depending on where in the country they live, within about 10-15 years they’re going to end up settling somewhere based on jobs, quality of life, etc. It might not be where they’re actually from. When you suddenly move into a neighborhood and you’re surrounded by 20 houses of people, all with their own context and stories, how do you actually connect and form a community? Well, if you’re all people who came of age during social and understand it, maybe you connect via NextDoor — and maybe that morphs into face-to-face dialogues about the neighborhood and the quality and the progression and all that. NextDoor can make local safe and effective, and it can make social become face-to-face (I’m not even on it, I just see the potential benefits). Boise’s on board, for example — as is Boise PD:

It honestly could be the next big thing, because it has the power to bring communities together — which other social functions don’t necessarily do:

Now, ignore this idea for a second, because while it’s true, it’s also a bit depressing:

Social’s going to keep growing for years and years (hell, at least I think it will). The big companies might not completely get it yet (some do) — “someone in marketing handles that, now let’s get back to this sales funnel!” — but they will have to in the future to continue being profitable (which is ultimately what matters). If social is going to grow, why not grow in a way that helps communities and fosters connections and advice and shares between actual neighbors? I think it’s predominantly a good thing. (Could it get a little creepy or feud-ish? Yes. But I mean theoretically, most anything can. Have you looked at Twitter or Facebook recently?)

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